Newborn Socialist Things

Materiality in Maoist China

Newborn Socialist Things

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 25 illustrations Published: July 2021

Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Communication

Contemporary China is seen as a place of widespread commodification and consumerism, while the Maoist Cultural Revolution that preceded it is typically understood as a time when goods were scarce and the state criticized what little consumption was possible. Indeed, with the exception of the likeness and words of Mao Zedong, the media and material culture of the Cultural Revolution are often characterized as a void out of which the postsocialist world of commodity consumption miraculously sprang fully formed. In Newborn Socialist Things, Laurence Coderre explores the material culture of the Cultural Revolution to show how it paved the way for the commodification of contemporary China. Examining objects ranging from retail counters and porcelain statuettes to textbooks and vanity mirrors, she shows how the project of building socialism in the People’s Republic has always been intimately bound up with consumption. By focusing on these objects—or “newborn socialist things”—along with the Cultural Revolution’s media environment, discourses of materiality, and political economy, Coderre reconfigures understandings of the origins of present-day China.


“Laurence Coderre takes ordinary objects from everyday life to create extraordinary insights into the Mao era and China today. Her book is a true tour de force in contemporary Chinese studies.” — Paul Clark, author of Youth Culture in China: From Red Guards to Netizens

“Laurence Coderre's serious engagement with theories of materiality rooted in deeply historicized practices, relations, and things provides a politically powerful rethinking of Marxism, culture, and materiality. This superb book will be of immense interest not only to scholars in Chinese studies and Asian studies, but also to cultural studies, visual and material culture, sound studies, comparative socialism, Cold War studies, and Marxism.” — Tina Mai Chen, coeditor of The Material of World History


Availability: Not in Stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laurence Coderre is Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at New York University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations  ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction  1
1. The Sonic Imaginary  27
2. Selling Revolution  54
3. Productivist Display  82
4. Illuminating the Commodity Fetish  112
5. Remediating the Hero  139
6. The Model in the Mirror  170
Coda  190
Notes  197
Bibliography  221
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1430-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1339-6